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How Solarpunk and its radical optimism is changing the world

We are living in a golden age of post-apocalyptic and science fiction entertainment that continues to predict a dystopian future on the horizon. Oppressive regimes leveraging technology to crush individualism and control citizens in a bleak world of mass poverty is a familiar story ingrained in our psyche. But could these works of fiction be responsible for audiences unwittingly manifesting a future of the same qualities?

Can you remember the last positive vision for the future depicted in a novel or movie? As the global community attempts to overcome polarisation in society and make sense of the brave new world ahead, maybe we could create a future that replaces dystopia with utopia. Try to imagine the possibilities of a future where the combination of optimism and technology could solve our greatest problems.

Cynics would argue that any form of entertainment that depicts a future of no conflict or excitement would be dull and boring. But maybe it's time we tried something different. At a time where we are all being asked to imagine what a more sustainable civilization would look like, perhaps we should explore how we can shift from a competitive to a cooperative mindset. The solarpunk movement is helping audiences envision the art of the possible.

What is Solarpunk?

Solarpunk is an art movement of writers, artists, and activists providing an optimistic vision of what a better future for humanity might look like. A future where humans and nature live in harmony is brought to life through an art nouveau aesthetic.

The science fiction sub-genre was first mentioned in 2008 by Republic of the Bees, which paved the way for a more hopeful future where technology creates solutions rather than problems for the planet we all call home. Many believe that solarpunk is helping to inspire innovation and open up new ways of thinking to generate ideas as climate change forces everyone to play a part in a sustainable future.

It's time we returned to higher ambitions for what we can do as a society.”

Adam Flynn
Futuristic city

The inconvenient truth is that the pessimism of present-day science fiction is often inspired by history repeating itself than building something different. Working together to overcome climate change and pollution is much more than a group of idealistic dreamers wanting to change the world. It's a timely reminder that we have lost our way, and we are not as helpless as many would have you believe. The solar punk movement encourages people to change both the present and the future by replacing pessimism and fear with optimistic stories about the future.

There are countless memes shared on Reddit reminding users that Orwell's 1984 was supposed to be a warning rather than an instruction manual. Instead, the solarpunk community is sowing a different seed in people's minds to open up the eyes to the difference and impact that every individual can make.

If the content we consume helps to form and change the way we think and act, there is an argument that our diet of dystopian fiction has prevented us from solving the biggest problems in the world. Thankfully there is a wide range of books, art, and even Spotify playlists to inspire others to reimagine the future.

Solarpunk is everything from a positive imagining of our collective futures to actually creating them. The only reason why we don't live in a solarpunk world right now is because no one has bothered to make it yet. We'll have to make it ourselves, and we'll have to help each other make it. That’s why it is solarpunk."


Embracing radical optimism

Solarpunk is a reaction to the suggestion that technology can only lead us down a dark dystopian road of enslavement. In a world of 24-hour rolling news channels reporting worst-case scenarios as fact while continuously ramping up fear to boost ratings, maybe we all need a little radical optimism in our lives. Solarpunk minded thinkers are dedicated to creating the tangible changes they want to see in the world.

The blurred lines between reality and fiction are already beginning to disappear. We increasingly see modern architecture clearly inspired by solarpunk, creating buildings that are working symbiotically with nature. Evidence of its influence can be found everywhere, from the Golden Bridge in Vietnam to the Forest Valley and Rain Vortex inside Singapore's Jewel Changi Airport.

Solarpunk's ideology is not as far-fetched you many previously thought. Entire nations are already beginning to work together to overcome challenges around climate change and pollution. People are increasingly rejecting fear, polarisation, and division in favour of hope and optimism. The choice of a more sustainable lifestyle is no longer isolated to idealistic fiction.

The solarpunk aesthetic of depicting nature and technology in harmony is already being brought to life in cities all over the world. But it was Adam Flynn of ASU's Hieroglyph who perfectly encapsulated the heartbeat of the movement when he said, "We're Solarpunks because the only other options are denial or despair."  I know which option I am going to choose, do you?

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